Journal article

Spatiotemporal dynamics of visual vertical judgments: early and late brain mechanisms as revealed by high-density electrical neuroimaging

Constructing and updating an internal model of verticality is fundamental for maintaining an erect posture and facilitating visuo-spatial processing. The judgment of the visual vertical (VV) has been intensively studied in psychophysical investigations and relies mainly on the integration of visual and vestibular signals, although a contribution of postural and somatosensory signals has been reported. Here we used high-density 192-channel evoked potential (EP) mapping and distributed source localization techniques to reveal the neural mechanisms of VV judgments. VV judgments (judging the orientation of visual lines with respect to the subjective vertical) were performed with and without a tilted visual frame. EP mapping revealed a sequence of neural processing steps (EP maps) of which two were specific for VV judgments. An early EP map, observed at ∼75-105 ms post-stimulus, was localized in right lateral temporo-occipital cortex. A later EP map (∼260-290 ms) was localized in bilateral temporo-occipital and parieto-occipital cortex. These data suggest that early VV-related neural processing involves the lateral and ventral visual stream and is related to visual processing concerning orientation, attention and comparison. The later, more dorsal, activation involves multimodal cortex subtending a constantly available and updated internal model of the vertical that we can refer to for the control of one's posture, actions, and visuo-spatial processing.

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